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Our Projects

Thomas Wolsey 550

Thomas Wolsey 550 is major heritage and education project managed by a partnership of Ipswich Central, Ipswich Borough Council, and Suffolk Archives; made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The 18 month public engagement project includes an exhibition about Thomas Wolsey and Tudor Ipswich at Suffolk Archives, town centre events, music, theatre, screenings, talks, guided walks, and activities for families. A Community Grants scheme is also available, until Friday 30th June, for activities across the town run by community organisations, in line with the ambitions of the project.

The project aims to:

  • Celebrate Ipswich's heritage – telling stories from Ipswich's past to inspire the future.
  • Increase social mobility – helping to build a sense of aspiration for local people.
  • Promote mental and physical health & wellbeing – through accessing and/or experiencing local culture, community, and heritage.
  • Create opportunities for children and young people – up to the age of 25.
  • Support Ipswich communities – focusing on one or more individual communities, or a specific geographic area of the town.
  • Uplift local communities – engage with people in areas of Ipswich where engagement in cultural and heritage activity is low.

Thomas Wolsey was born and educated in Ipswich. The son of a tradesman, he enjoyed a meteoric rise, against the odds, which took him to the most powerful position within the King’s Court as Cardinal and Lord Chancellor and the Pope’s representative in England.

By 1526, Thomas Wolsey’s journey, together with his new-found papal influence, led him back to Ipswich where he founded his ‘Cardinal College’, situated on the site of the former Augustinian priory of St Peter and St Paul. He intended it to feed its best pupils in to Oxford University where he, himself, was educated at the age of 15. Unfortunately, Wolsey fell from power and died before his Ipswich college was established, and it was largely dismantled by Henry VIII.

The Wolsey 550 project aims to inspire local young people by retelling Thomas Wolsey's "rags to riches" story and by creating the opportunities for them that Wolsey once dreamed of for Ipswich.

Terry Baxter, Chair of Ipswich Central says: “Ipswich Central are delighted to get this project off the ground and play a major part in its delivery. Thomas Wolsey’s story has so much importance, not just for Ipswich but to the country as a whole and the world beyond. His career was unprecedented – he recognised opportunities and went for them. This project will unearth his story which is about ambition, aspiration, the importance of education and the ability of anyone to succeed if they are given the right opportunities.”

“Our town centre includes an important heritage area, stretching from St Nicholas Street to the Waterfront, within which are situated important but currently understated assets that could become a major visitor attraction. These include the College water gate and chapel, and the area of Wolsey’s birthplace in the Saints which features his statue. This project gives us a unique opportunity to bring our history, both physically and digitally, to the fore and to use it as a catalyst to attract national and international visitors to Ipswich.”

Details of the public programme, and how to get involved, are available on the Wolsey 550 website and will be continually updated as the project develops:

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